We recently had a brief talk with one of the judges on MasterChef Australia season 10 – Matt Preston. An award-winning food journalist, critic, and TV personality, Matt Preston has appeared on the series at least seven times. He also appears this year’s Season 10 of MasterChef Australia, which is airing on Lifetime Asia at 8 PM.
Here are his thoughts about the show and of course his response on the somewhat recent crispy chicken rendang controversy on MasterChef UK earlier this year.
Is there anything relatively distinct and/or special with MasterChef Australia Season 10 in comparison to the previous seasons?
I think this season the cooks are more down to earth and there’s a lot more hands-on cooking. There are more pastries and spring rolls being made from scratch, with people even making their own buns for the burger challenge. It’s great to see stuff like this.
You know that the North Africans have a saying, “you cook with your fingers”, and these people certainly cook with their fingers. You can tell that these cooks don’t focus on high-end recipe or techniques from books. While in the past, we’ve seen a bit of that stuff and we ourselves have encouraged that in the past, things are changing. We use to talking all the techniques and styles like deconstruction 10 years ago. Nowadays maybe the pendulum has swung back the other way, where we care more about the caring love and passion chefs put into their dishes.
With regards to the recent crispy chicken rendang controversy, what exactly is the line in respecting a foreign cuisine and innovating it?
Normally when I see rendang in Indonesia and Malaysia, the meat is cooked in the sauce. People will generally tweet stuff without looking at the original dish and without looking at how it was cooked. My current understanding of the situation is that Greg is commenting about a crispy bit of chicken on the dish. That the dish was a pile of rice with a bit of chicken that should have been crispy with a sauce that had the flavours of rendang in it.
Now, criticizing that dish is very different, that intention is very different, than criticizing a true rendang. I’ve got a rendang in one of my books and I can send you a picture of what a rendang looks like to me. I honestly don’t think what she made looked like a rendang. Now, a rendang obviously shouldn’t be crispy, that’s a stupid thing to say but I don’t think Greg was commenting about the rendang but the chicken.
What you are talking about is not what most people would see a rendang. Now, the rendang that I make come from two different Nyonya recipes. It could be different from maybe rendang from Sumatra or Singapore or Johor. A dish varies dramatically from place to place. Take laksa as an example, how many variations of laksa are there in Malaysia? (Another journalist answered that there’s a lot from Sarawak and Penang) Exactly and there are all a little different. There is a restaurant that just opened in Melbourne called SUNDA and they are making a modern version of Malaysian street food, they do otak-otak; it’s very fancy it looks like the street food version but when you taste it you go “okay it’s not the same” but you get the essential flavour. I think the key is you must respect traditions but not be constrained by it.